Jagersfontein: ‘Mining execs must be held accountable’ – Amnesty

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More than 500 animals were also rescued after the Jagersfontein mine dam wall burst. PHOTO: Nigel Sibanda

Amnesty International South Africa said the mining executives responsible for the Jagersfontein mine dam wall burst, which caused major destruction to the community, must be held accountable for the loss of lives, homes and people livelihoods.

Over 300 residents in the small Free State town were left homeless after water from a dam located at a Jagersfontein Developments mine cracked open and flooded the area.

The death toll from the disaster is still unclear amid conflicting reports with the fatalities varying from one to five.

Lack of Accountability
Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said the lack of accountability within the mining sector is a major continuing problem in South Africa.

“It has worrying consequences on the lives of communities who live in these areas. The Jagersfontein mining executives must be held accountable for this disaster which could have been avoided.”

Mohamed said mining companies have an enormous impact on people’s lives and the communities in which they operate.

“Sometimes the impact is positive, but there are countless instances when corporations exploit weak and poorly enforced domestic regulation with devastating effects on people and communities.”

Government Involvement
She added that governments are also required to protect against human rights abuse, including that caused by companies.”

“By failing to hold mining companies accountable, the state is failing to protect people living in South Africa, which it has a constitutional duty to do. Both the state and mining companies need to be held responsible.”

Investigation
Amnesty International South Africa has called for a thorough, efficient, and timeous investigation into the reasons behind the dam wall burst, and to ensure that those who are responsible are held to account.

“We cannot continue to have the buck passed on devastating incidents like what we have seen in Jagersfontein, with companies and the state trying to absolve themselves while people are suffering,” Mohamed said.

Stargems Group, a Dubai-based diamond merchant, which owns the mine in Jagersfontein in the Free State, has reportedly said it is probing the incident that saw parts of the town destroyed by water and mine waste.

The company’s legal compliance officer, Marius de Villiers, addressed the media on Tuesday and said the company had set aside R20 million to assist victims.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy also said it had dispatched experts to investigate the cause of the dam burst.

Faizel Patel/The Citizen